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Exclusive Interview: Neil Marshall talks Tales of Halloween!

01.09.2015by: Eric Walkuski

Halloween is coming a little early this year; you don't mind, do you? No, I can't force it to be October already (try as I might), but hopefully I can help get you into the spirit just a bit. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Neil Marshall - the director behind such genre faves as DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT and DOOMSDAY - about his current project, TALES OF HALLOWEEN. You've probably seen us post about this one recently; a Halloween-set anthology in the vein of TRICK 'R TREAT that features a very cool roster of directors, including Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW 2-4), Paul Solet (GRACE), Mike Mendez (BIG ASS SPIDER) and Lucky McKee (ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE) - among others. The project is the brainchild of Axelle Carolyn (SOULMATE), Marshall's wife and frequent collaborator; it's a Halloween movie made for genre fans, by genre fans - what more could one ask for?

Here Marshall and I speak about the anthology and how it came together and what Halloween means to him personally. We also touch on his current status as a big name in television (he's helmed "Black Sails," "Constantine" and "Game of Thrones," his work on the latter earned him an Emmy nomination), the frustrations of trying to get features made nowadays and what he has lined up for the future.

(For more about TALES OF HALLOWEEN, head over HERE.)

Thanks for taking the time out to chat... Where are you right now on your short, have you finished shooting?

NM: Yeah, I was one of the first ones to shoot, back in November. We're in the editing phase right now and we're in pretty good shape.

So tell me what you can about the plot of your short?

NM: I can tell you it's a dark comedy, horror. Tonally it's close to something like Gremlins, but I can't tell you much more than that.

Can you tell me about the origins of this project and rounding up this great team of directors?

NM: Well, we've all known each other for years. But it really was Axelle Carolyn who kicked the whole thing off, really, she came up with the idea of all of us working together. We've talked about working together before, but we couldn't figure out how. Anthology movies have made a bit of a comeback lately, with VHS and ABCs of Death, and so she said, "Let's make an anthology together, and let's make it about Halloween." In a way that was such a no-brainer, and we all agreed we wanted to do it. A really big element to it was, because we're all friends, we all wanted to help each other out and support each other, not be in any way in competition with each other. It all came together very easily. And then through Mike Mendez's connection to Epic Pictures, we sat down with them and two days later they came on board to finance the whole thing. It really was a very simple process. Then we worked on the scripts together and had lots of meetings together, and on the shoots we'd all just hang out on each other's sets, which was such fun.

It sounds like the antithesis of how a Hollywood product comes together.

NM: It's virtually unheard of. [Laughs] For it to come together so quickly and easily with such great people, it's pretty unusual. We've been cherishing every moment. That's not to say it hasn't been tough; making these things on such low budgets on two, three days to shoot.

Is there a through line that connects the plots together?

NM: There is connecting tissue. They're all set in the same town, on the same night of Halloween. And there are threads that connect them; background characters and storylines that very subtly link them all together and come and go throughout the story. But they're all individual stories.

Have you always been a huge fan of anthologies?

NM: Absolutely. It started for me with Creepshow. And then there are a ton of them that few people have even heard of. It's been fun discovering some new anthologies that I'd not seen before, and figuring out that world, what works best.

What does Halloween mean to you, personally?

NM: I think, for all of us, it's our favorite holiday of the year. For me and Axelle, it's very personal, because it's our wedding anniversary as well. I love the nature of it. It's been great for us to see it in the states; we just moved to the states this past year and experienced Halloween in L.A. How much you guys celebrate it and love it. We have a little bit of that in Europe, but not much.

It must be so cool seeing Axelle's career develop.

NM: Oh yeah, absolutely. Having watched her make her feature debut and being so proud of the end result, and seeing how great she is at what she does. This project has been such a passion project for her, not just as a writer and director but as a producer as well. Bringing everyone together and kind of marshaling the whole thing certainly has not been easy, but that's the nature of the business and she's embraced it. She's been so dedicated that it's been a pleasure to watch and help out wherever I can. I've definitely been on the sidelines, concentrating on being a director for this, I haven't really been involved on the production side at all.

Have you enjoyed working in television, on shows like Game of Thrones and Constantine?

NM: It's very different. It's been sort of easy, because things get done very quickly there. It's the nature of the beast in TV; the beast needs feeding, it demands new material on a constant basis, so these shows get made more easily in that sense. That's been a real pleasure, because it's always a constant struggle to get movies off the ground. TV has sort of invited me into its world, and I've had a blast doing it, the projects I've done have been fantastic. It's like making mini-feature films. Constantine, Black Sails, Game of Thrones, these are worlds I wanted to explore anyway, because they're elevated genre material. I've loved every second of that.

Congrats on the Emmy nomination, by the way, for your last Game of Thrones episode. That episode is so fantastic.

NM: I'm very, very proud to have done that in such a unique piece of television. I've had a chance to put my stamp on it in my own little way. Quite an honor.

What is your next feature?

NM: I'm going to do one in March for Blumhouse, that's the plan at the moment. Otherwise I have two or three options lining up. These things, either happen or they don't. In the meantime I'm going to be starting a new TV series of my own, and trying to get another off the ground.

It seems like you're attached to so many different projects, can you talk about how difficult it is to get something made in Hollywood?

NM: It's incredibly frustrating. The feature film environment is changing all the time. The kind of films I want to make, the budget level my films have been in the past, fall right into this black hole area where they're just not making them anymore. I have to adapt to stuff that I want to do, which is always incredibly ambitious. If I'm lucky enough to get a big studio picture, that's one thing, but otherwise it's like, how can I do this stuff? Something like Game of Thrones, you know, you couldn't make a film like that with that kind of budget, it's going to be $200 million. But it doesn't need to be. I kind of did that with Centurion; you did need $200 million to make a fantasy or historical epic. But you can't make those for $200,000 either. It's just the way that the industry is changing, it's harder to get films financed and made.

I know you were attached to the Troll Hunter remake and the Dracula movie The Last Voyage of the Demeter, but we haven't heard much about them recently. Are these projects still alive?

NM: These projects are very much alive. It's that thing where, at some point, something will click into place and it'll happen. You kind of got to stick with them as long as you can. I'm still very, very passionate about doing Troll Hunter and Last Voyage of the Demeter. They're great projects. I'm sticking with them, so fingers crossed we'll get to see them one day.

Especially The Last Voyage of the Demeter. I love Dracula movies and I'm sure you have a great spin on that particular tale.

NM: Yeah, I've got a good twist on it. It could be a really awesome project, very great. It's very scary.

Appreciate your time, Neil, I'm looking forward to the anthology this year.

NM: Alright, thanks a lot!

Extra Tidbit: TALES OF HALLOWEEN comes out this October from Epic Pictures

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